The Best Dozen: Dunkin' Donuts

Dunkin Donuts in box

By Daniel B.

We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donut shops -- and pick his favorite donuts -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.

Donuts are popular. And one shop is more popular than any other in the Northeast by far. You know its name.

Whether or not America runs on the stuff is an open question. I really, really hope that's not the case.

Mostly because after eating through a dozen of these mass-produced donuts that have become the definitive versions of their respective form for most, it was a struggle to find any that I'd want to eat again.

About the shop

dunkin donuts delmar exterior

With so many locations, how do you choose which Dunkin' Donuts is potentially the best of the bunch? Luckily there is a reddit thread for that. So I was off to the Delmar location in search of the mythical Frosted Kreme.

When I arrived at the shop, I found that all the filled donuts were heart shaped (but no Frosted Kreme). The clerk suggested the shape was to let you know where the donuts go after you eat them. I thought the universe was trying to send a little positive encouragement to help me make it through the trials ahead.

The mixed dozen

dunkin donuts mixed dozen overhead

Column by column, left to right.

French cruller
Maple frosted /
Vanilla kreme
Boston kreme
Butternut /
Toasted coconut
Powdered jelly
Apple n spice /
Blueberry cake
Chocolate glazed cake
Double chocolate cake

The best of the bunch

Double chocolate cake

Out of any set of things, regardless how mediocre they may be on the whole, one has to be the best. In this case it's the chocolate cake donut, which is glazed and then topped with a chocolate icing. With two cocoa delivery devices, this donut has a rounder, fuller chocolate flavor. The interior crumb is rich and moist, and there are even a few crispy bits on the edge of the donut to remind you it's been fried.

The solid choices


Soft and rich and not too sweet. The glaze itself holds, but it's a bit thin. A thicker glaze would give more crackle and may be able to better balance this donut's odd and almost savory finish. But it's decidedly not terrible.

Maple frosted

Imitation maple flavor doesn't quite hit the mark, but the balance of icing to shell is right on. The crumb is rich and tender, and again this donut finishes on a decidedly savory note. It's tasty, but calling it maple when the ingredients list no actual maple syrup is disingenuous.

Toasted coconut

This seems to be a relative rarity based on the Facebook page demanding its return. It's encouraging to see a glazed cake donut covered by what appears to be actual toasted coconut flakes. The toasting goes a long way to bring complexity to all this sweetness.

Apple n spice

Mmmm, commercial apple pie filling. This stuff isn't bad in the right context, and this counts as being in the right context. It is even made with real evaporated apples. The filling and cinnamon coating work well together, and if not glorious, it's at least inoffensive. Still, the more I eat these donut shells, the more I notice an unpleasant texture in the dough and wonder if it's from the defatted soy flour.

Chocolate glazed

The earthy, dusty chocolate flavor is more redolent of chocolate licorice than anything else. This too could benefit from a thicker glaze. The crumb is rich, but also gummy. It's OK by comparison, but this cake donut also leaves a very strange feeling on my teeth.

The disappointments

French cruller

It's so light and delicate, with a crisp crust and elastic eggy crumb. More than anything, with its exterior ridges, this is a glaze delivery device and it's delightful on first bite. But something truly awful happens when it's chewed. The donut left a deeply unsettling thick chalky film on the roof of my mouth. Wondering if this was some fluke, I sampled the donut a second and third time to the same ends. No human being should eat this.

Vanilla Kreme

This filling exists somewhere between a thick, greasy cake icing and marshmallow fluff. It's not nearly as off putting as it sounds when stuffed in a shell. Still, the whole thing pushes towards cloying. But it's so, so greasy. I got a little smudge on my fingers and had a hard time removing it even with soap. I shudder to think about what this mixture of palm oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and polyglycerol esters of fatty acids are doing to my insides.

Boston Kreme

Usually, I would bemoan a stuffed donut that was light on its filling. But this "kreme" has an odd artificial (medicinal?) flavor. The icing does indeed taste of cocoa, but there is almost an astringency to the creamy center. The donut eaten as a whole does a pretty good job at masking these off flavors, but I cannot recommend it.


The name would imply that these crunchy bits on the outside of a glazed cake donut have something to do with nuts. But they don't taste like nuts. It's more sugar than anything else, with some coconut and corn flour for texture. The donut tasted like nutmeg, artificial vanilla, and sweet. So sweet. Intriguing, but no.


Shockingly red in color with no signs of fruit. It tastes of artificial raspberry with a floral note that's not unlike dish cleaner. Like many of Dunkin's donuts, this one is better than the sum of its parts, but that doesn't make it good.

Blueberry cake

This donut is one of the reasons I don't trust Dunkin' Donuts. Those aren't blueberries. They are flavor crystals and have a pronounced unnatural blueberry flavor (as one might expect). But the texture of this donut is unpleasantly gritty. So the combined experience is like that of eating a lollipop at the beach. It's truly awful.

The Hail Mary

Chocolate frosted

Based on the solid structure of the yeast-raised shell and the clear superiority of the chocolate icing, I added one final donut to the evaluation at a whopping cost of $1.09 (because it was bought as a single -- that's more than twice the price of Schuyler bakeries donuts). This is the clear and undisputed best of the bunch. Although like all of its Dunkin' Donut cousins it is oddly savory. That probably has to do with the 340 mg of sodium that are packed into it (compared to the similarly sized chocolate iced glazed from Krispy Kreme that has only 80 mg of sodium). Even still, if forced to get a Dunkin' Donut in the future, this one would be my pick.

The best dozen

6 Chocolate frosted
1 Glazed
1 Maple frosted
1 Toasted coconut
1 Apple n spice
1 Chocolate glazed
1 Double chocolate cake

Honestly, you wouldn't really want more than one of any of these. A dozen donuts here will set you back $8.99. That means if it costs you less than $3 in gas to get to Watervliet and back, it actually pays to go to Schuyler bakery instead.

Not included in this evaluation were the much-beloved coffee roll ($1.69) or the croissant donut ($2.69) as they cannot be included within a standard dozen. The coffee roll might not be a bad way to go if you were in the mood for a donut and one wouldn't quite be enough food. It's a massive cinnamon swirl donut, with moderately well defined layers, but there is little to distract from the flaws of the dough itself.

As far as the croissant donut? Just don't. If you want to spend over $2.50 on a donut-y treat, get yourself over to Nibble in Troy and let them hand stuff a shell for you with housemade lemon curd and top it with a slice of Meyer lemon. That is something special. This? This needs to be stopped. It's a crime against donuts.

Daniel B. is the proprietor of the FUSSYlittleBLOG.

More from The Best Dozen:
+ Nibble in Troy
+ Hannaford
+ Schuyler Bakery in Watervliet
+ Cider Belly in Albany
+ ShopRite in Colonie
+ Stewart's
+ Cookie Factory in Troy
+ Market Bistro in Latham
+ Park Side Eatery in Saratoga Springs
+ Bella Napoli in Troy


Ahhhh! I can't believe they had the french cruller! I thought they were discontinued in the whole region. Sorry you hated it but it is my favorite, despite the chalky film. :)

That's so weird about the Vanilla Kreme. This is my local shop and I've never had the greasy cream before... It's not great and, given the option, I'll go to Cider Belly every time, but the cream has certainly never been greasy to me.

Considering that Daniel is known for his, let say—lack of love—of DD. I admire his restraint and diplomacy.

That said, DD is to donuts today as McDonalds is to hamburgers. People that do not have discerning taste like DD. But anyone that actually likes good food, would never set foot in the place. Especially when there are numerous other better choices. (Not that there aren't some options that are tasty there.)

In a former life I worked for DD as a baker for 18 years. I made the donuts. I also worked the counter on occasion, and when someone called in sick, would work as a "finisher" (finishers take the cooked donuts and add the toppings/fillings/frostings and tray them up).

I'm intimately familiar with Dunkin's processes (at least as they were from 1982-2000). Back in the day, before they were absorbed by a giant conglomerate, DD made a decent product. But when I left in 2000, the donuts were nothing more than science experiments designed to stay "fresh" for more than a few hours and for consistency and cost control.

It makes me sad when I think about how far the company has fallen. Dunkin' Donuts at one time was special. It had a decent product and a unique culture that people genuinely loved. And before Starbucks and other high end coffee chains became ubiquitous, it was the one place you were assured a decent cup of coffee and a wholesome bakery product no matter which location you visited.

@Naomi: hard to find, but the rumor is that you can still get some French Cruller in Troy too (the one on Vandenberg Ave. if I recall). Daniel is obviously being nonsensical -- don't forget the roof of his mouth is a delicate flower that has been harmed by insufficiently round spoons before. French Crullers are delicious.

Guess I'm in the "undiscerning" taste category, but I unashamedly think the Blueberry Cake donuts at DD are pretty awesome

Thank you S! I actually called the Delmar store and they told me that the bakery they are using now started making the crullers again. They said there are 14 Troy area stores that carry them, including Wynantskill (which is closest to me).

T, I like the blueberry cake as well. Guess we have plebe taste buds!

I was visiting in NYC this weekend & stayed in a nice hotel near Wall St. I was in the mood for something sweet and the local delis (there are many) had an ample supply of cheesecake slices...Five bucks each. The nearby Dunkin had a 6 for 3.99 special and by god it looked pretty fine.

I'm sad Daniel missed out on the ultimate Dunkin Donuts flavor (although something tells me he would have hated it)

The Homer Simpson Signature Strawberry Frosted with Sprinkles!

The artificial strawberry flavor in the frosting was my favorite fast food treat as a kid and still remains one of my favorite things despite having far superior donuts nearby at Cider Belly.

If Dunkin Donuts somehow were able to provide coffee that wasn't ladled from the nearest sewer, or had customer service better than what is usually only tolerated from cable-and-phone conglomerates, there might be more of a reason to stop in and pick some up!

I gave up on Dunkin Donuts about five or six years ago, despite living in extremely close proximity to one. The last few donuts I tried there weren't even worth the minimal effort it took me to walk out my door and cross the street. Same goes for the battery acid they pass off as coffee.

Too bad you didn't like my two favorites, the blueberry cake and the butternut. I'm a Schuyler's guy, but I love the texture of those two. No accounting for taste, I guess!

Wish that dunkin would make their choc french cruellers again. They were the best. Years ago Leo's bakery made the best donuts!

@Paul: Seconded - was shocked not to find the Homer Special on here. I'm convinced that association makes them taste better (not to mention more popular - try finding one after 10am at a location that doesn't bake them there...)

There were many things that I have learned by writing this series. One of them is my totally rational hatred of sprinkles.

Can we talk about the French crullers for a moment?

The taste and texture of this donut aren't in question. It's light. It's sweet. The shell has a great crisp exterior. It feels French (as opposed to the croissant donut which just feels like ten pounds of wrong in a five pound bag).

But that is only part of the enjoyment of food. One cannot ignore the finish (or, if you prefer, aftertaste). Beer drinkers know this, potato chip eaters know this, and donut lovers should be aware of it too.

No donut should leave you wanting to scrape off the roof of your mouth with a butter knife. I can't even wrap my head around what Dunkin' must have done to the French cruller to make it behave in such a way.

For that, we would need a food scientist. And when we find one, perhaps that person can explain why Dunkin' now uses konjac flour in some of its donuts.

> One cannot ignore the finish (or, if you prefer, aftertaste)
> donut lovers should be aware of it.

Thank you. Until now, I was always making sure to spit my donut *before* that stage. I was doing it wrong.

You must like frozen donuts.

Remember when Dunkin Donuts actually made the donuts in the store? The British mega financial conglomerate that pulls their strings saw that as inefficient and decided that centralized delivery distribution of frozen goods made better fiscal sense and got rid of the bakers and the ovens, reduced outlet sizes, and imposed an "if it can't be done in the microwave, we don't sell it" directive. That is why the donuts stink and the "food" is more recycled than that one finds at a Taco Hell. These stores were actually decent places at one time, when the franchisee had some say in what could be done. But that is long gone, just like the fairness in their commodity dealings for coffee beans. Buy from a local bakery and coffee shop.

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